Friday, January 11, 2008

List of Current Favorites, Preoccupations, Indulgences

Periodically in my journals I will sit down and write a list of the books I am reading, the music I am listening to...the things that are preoccupying me in a particular time and place in my life. Now that I am doing this sorta public journaling, I thought what the hell, I'll share one of these lists with y'all.


  • Smog
  • Simon Joyner
  • Neutral Milk Hotel
  • Josh Ritter (couple songs...not all that country shite)
  • Mountain Goats
  • online radio!
Recently Read (or currently reading) Books:

  • Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe
  • Whores and Other Feminists (I am a VERY big fan of the editor!)
  • Sea of Glory: America's Voyage of Discovery, The US Exploring Expedition of 1838-1842
  • Compass: A Story of Exploration and Innovation
  • Short Shorts (stories that is)
  • The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science
  • Best of American Science Writing: 2007 (just bought this one)

Friends I Talk to A Lot:

  • Karen Kerr
  • Jill Nagle
  • Jessi James...ah...I mean Jessi Brandt!
  • Deb Palermo
  • All my sibs

Best Friend:

  • One fat, adoring pit-bull mix who adores me despite my many faults!


  • Dark chocolate


  • Kettle One martinis...or screwdrivers...always vodka tho

Photo Shoot With My Bro...2006

My bro Jimmy is one of my best friends in the whole world. He is hilarious, loving, scruffy faced and very independent. One weekend he was visiting from Long Beach and we went out to dinner, had a few drinks, came home, kept drinking and somehow the night turned into me doing an Annie Liebowitz impersonation, bossing Jimmy around, insisting on wardrobe changes....instructing him into different poses and demanding moods and expressions. The fruits of this drunken evening include some pretty interesting shots. After accidentally printing every picture that night (I am not the most technically adroit on a computer...especially when tipsy) I learned that my brother is very photogenic...very handsome in front of the camera.

He is such a good sport, so willing...and we laughed all night and had fodder for weeks. There are some wardrobe changes that my brother willingly complied with but refuses to let me share with the world (I mean come on, I am his very butch-gender bending sis....such things should only be expected). Too bad, he looks really really good....maybe someday. But for now, here are some highlights for you all to enjoy.

That's all for now.....thanks Jimmy. You're the best.

He let me post it!! Here it is! Saucy!!

Class: Musings on White Trash, Furniture, and Wal-Mart

To look at me now…to know my SF/Oakland friends with their MAs, JDs, white collar jobs in class A office buildings in San Francisco….paying mortgages on cute little bungalows, sleeping on 600 thread count sheets, contributing to 401Ks and eating Shaking Beef at the Slanted Door…to look at me now as I fit into this crowd.…using polysyllabic words and the proper fork for my salad….you would not know that I come from a mother whose upbringing reflects many of the characteristics of what is often so casually referred to as “white trash” (and/or it’s cousin phrase, “trailer trash”).

In my life when I am confronted with either of these phrases my mind immediately goes to an image of my mother, Donna, and it is often a particular picture of her barefoot in a simple hand-me-down skirt and sweater standing in front of a small trailer (and I mean the kind that you pull with a truck), probably 8 or 9 years old....shoulder length black hair held back on one side with a barrette…shoulders slumped looking up at the camera with a pale white face and big brown sad eyes….it is not a happy picture. Even though I have a MA in Women Studies and have cultivated an almost compulsive desire to analyze the world around me (versus love it…that is a whole other discussion), my initial response is always visceral, “My mother was NOT trash!”

My mother was poor as was her mother, Irene. Irene was one of 13 children who struggled just to survive. I remember my mother’s stories about Irene’s childhood Christmases which brought a little comfort from the local priest who would each year deliver some extra coal for heat and a basket of fruit. That was Christmas for Irene in the cold dark winter of Kalamazoo Michigan, coal and an orange. Irene was not trash….even though she grew up to marry a terminal alcoholic and spent a lifetime working in a paper mill and always lived in a trailer....(moving up to a doublewide)…..Irene was not trash. And when she encouraged my mother (mostly by not protesting) to go to nurses training, she helped precipitate the story that currently stars educated me knowing how to use the right fork in 4-star restaurants.

Donna was unusual in that she did not marry until she was 24, a late age for her generation. She and her husband Jim started their lives together, waiting 2 years before conceiving me, their oldest of five children. Jim worked as a draftsman and supported the family allowing them, after a second girl was born, to buy a house in an LA suburb, exceeding the economic dreams of my mother. I remember being very young when my parents bought a brand new dining room set for the new “formal” dining room…my mother beaming when they delivered and assembled the table and the china cabinet. “I never in my dreams thought I would have something like this,” she elated to me. I listened, noting the comment enough to recall it some 35 years later. My mothers dreams expressed in furniture.

Since then I have been schooled into a more urbane aesthetic that is fitting of someone with my household income and “hip” urban social context…and so I recall the furniture, the particle board table top with the fake wood finish, the cheap glass in the cabinet, the garish upholstery…and I cringe, a tension in me between the ridiculousness and the tragedy of contemplating furniture so seriously…but then so did my mother. And I am uncomfortable as I ponder my all wood custom-made dining table, feeling lucky and embarrassed and ashamed and comforted and arrogant and humbled and whatever…my enjoyment of my table is not innocent…is not disembodied. It is connected to a long-ago comment, a sensibility cultivated throughout a childhood.

My friend's father on several occasions has made disparaging remarks about people whose economic and/or social status does not match his. I remember one evening in which he ran into Wal-Mart to quickly buy something mundane while we waited in the car. Upon returning he stated with condescension and a smug grin, “I was the best looking one in there.” Again, my response was visceral, you are talking about my mother…a woman who shopped at Kmart not his Abercrombie & Fitch…my mother had severe scoliosis, a big nose, and wore the clothes she bought at Kmart. She was, by dominant cultural standards, not as good looking as he…..something he was proud to announce, unknowingly addressing my mother and me. In that moment and others similar, I felt the visceral response, shame, anger, embarrassment…and later, with the help of my intellect, I felt the righteous indignation, my own superiority in laughing at the ignorant oppressor…that lame middle-aged white guy who is fucking clueless and arrogant. And then, I settle and remember that he was raised with little and his parents remained dependent on him and his ample means and that his wife has criticized him for this.

And finally, when my bigger truth remembers itself, I sigh in the knowledge that any effort to “other” our fellow humans is born of pain and fear. Even for him, it is pain and fear and so my response must ultimately come from the place of love and compassion. This knowledge is simple but not easy to put into practice. I struggle and work to come from this place, to unlearn what impedes this. Definitely a work in progress.

November 10, 2005